Page Two: Look Who's (Still) Talking

Miers nomination pushes right-wing spin machine into delicious, disturbing overdrive

Page Two
Determined to offer celebration, I feel trapped into spreading despair. Convinced it is the time to talk about good people doing good things, I'm overwhelmed by the mean, petty, and self-destructive. Times have changed; things are better in so many ways. Just look back at the Fifties, when too many were leading lives of quiet desperation. Recently, I was asked how I was doing. I realized that, when it came to my immediate and extended community – family, friends, colleagues – most are happy, and many are thrilled to be doing what they are doing. Not all of them, but so many are spending more time involved in and enjoying their work than despairing over it. Yet the tidal waves are swamping so many boats elsewhere. What to make of this dichotomy? This column reflects my concerns about the world more than my ongoing life. Which is a situation worth considering.

The right is turning blue over Bush's choice of Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court. As much as anything, this is because, after endlessly chiding Democrats for their abortion-rights litmus test for confirmation, they are not sure how she'll vote on Roe v. Wade. In itself, this represents the perfect hypocrisy and inherent dishonesty of current right-wing equations. Rhetoric is used to say the opposite of what is meant (the Democrats have a litmus test, the Republicans don't, heh-heh, because they trust the president will vet the candidate on the sly). The Republicans deny having an agenda, and thus they don't have one (although, heh-heh, they do, and we all know exactly what it is). Finally, their concerns turn out to be even more narrowly focused and their football-team-loyalty, partisan allegiances even more petty than one could have reasonably imagined.

Instead of how Miers will vote on Roe, shouldn't the real concern be about a president who has less courage, less imagination, less presidential stature than even some of his craziest enemies dare to argue? Is there anyone anywhere who thinks that Miers is such an outstanding legal authority that she is a logical or even dark-horse choice for the United States Supreme Court – regardless of her position on Roe v. Wade?

I've defended President Bush as being a lot smarter, more independent, and a more intuitively gifted political strategist than he has been credited with being. Tragically, I would now say that, in the last couple of months, he has made my generosity toward him all too clear. I have given him way too much credit, finding it so difficult to believe that his vision – the world-view of the president of the United States – is as sophomoric and simplistic as it now so clearly is. In conversation, I suggested that his frat-boy view of the world had become too obvious, but I was chided for insulting frat boys. I accept that admonishment.

In her Wednesday New York Times column, Maureen Dowd (I rarely read Dowd, though I often agree with her) hopes that there are no more hidden White House wives of George Bush to be appointed to positions for which they are not qualified. The metaphor is brilliant, but given that Bush appointed Cheney to head his vice-presidential candidate search and consulted with Harriet Miers on Judge John Roberts' appointment, I can't help thinking "Mommy" and Daddy" instead of "wife."

Even though this is a blatant display of Bush's inverted, insulated perceptions and core immaturity, the right-wing is desperately trying to blame Democrats for the choice. They are resorting to all the old stereotypes: that the Democrats are the enemy within; that after years of liberal domination and the destruction of America, there's been a conservative revolution. The president is being forced to abandon his principles because of the success of the vicious, partisan maneuvering of the Democrats. I think one would regard Look Who's Talking and its two sequels as documentaries before one would credit the Democrats with having done anything so politically astute in recent times.

A friend suggested that the meat thermometer shoved into the right wing was just about ready to read "Done." I'm not nearly that optimistic, but there is something in the desperate nature of their attacks that, while profoundly scary, is also somewhat delicious. In general, right-wing demagogue pundits currently spend a lot more time holding forth on immigration than they do on Iraq; the war there has gotten too messy, and the future is so uncertain. Certainly, they are not going to reconsider their support for it, and Iraq really is going so poorly that blaming Democrats covers only some of the holes.

But illegals – that's a gold mine. The populist right wing, maintaining that to attack is better than to contemplate or actually even legislate, is laser-focusing on illegals because the issue provides them with another enemy to attack at will, another way to indulge inherently racist fantasies while pretending not to be racist.

Forget that illegal immigration poses little real threat and probably contributes as much if not more to the economy than depletes it. It's enough of a given that significant parts of the U.S. economy are dependent on illegal immigration that The Wall Street Journal offered an editorial attacking the Democrats for trying to clamp down on it. They claimed that the party was just acting on the insistence of the unions worried about competition for jobs. Forget that there is a bipartisan "see no evil, hear no evil" position on immigration, with almost all but the actually committed legislators or random nutcases unwilling to comment on it. California's social and education problems have a lot more to do with Proposition 13 than with illegals, but come on, folks, isn't blaming our mistakes on scapegoats as American a tradition as apple pie?

Republicans have proven artistic geniuses at misdirection, even if their ongoing destruction of basic constitutional principles proves catastrophic. The painfully partisan, anti-constitutional nature of the current wave of hard-right aggression is not unexpected, but it's still disturbing. Rush Limbaugh, displaying his absolute contempt for a constitutional republic, in broadcasts kept explicitly referring to the Democrats as the enemy, saying it was time to hammer in the final nail on their coffin. Another talk-show host kept up an adolescent rant about how what is going on in Congress just isn't fair. He kept whining that, since the Republicans won the election, they should get to do what they pleased without any consideration of the Democrats, as though he had never heard of the Constitution or was even vaguely aware of how our government is supposed to work.

Don't they get that what the founding fathers wanted and the Constitution describes is not a one-party, religious state, but very much the opposite? Political conflict is crucial, not antithetical, to a healthy, functioning constitutional republic. What form of government, exactly, are these folks hoping to see in Iraq?

They still can't quite admit they've made such drastic mistakes, not just in supporting Bush, but in their blind loyalty to him. As they complain about celebrity, they've made Bush much more of a star than a political leader or sitting president. They are so polluted by partisan loyalty and so convinced that the best solutions are attacks on those they disagree with that they can't figure out what else to do. Portraying the current Democratic Party as either powerful or politically brilliant is an act that would leave Houdini still locked up. Yet they try.

The local folks added to the fun; the right-wing faithful hosts on KLBJ-AM on Saturday night were positively indignant about Ronnie Earle's base, partisan indictment of Tom DeLay. Defying all notions of American jurisprudence, they not only are ready to summarily dismiss all charges against DeLay without further legal procedure, but think Earle should be indicted for bringing them. They were especially offended that no fair-minded Democrats were calling to join in their outrage. First, one has to be as truly perverse as I am to even listen to the show, regardless of one's politics. Then there's the fact that their outrage at the overt power politics of these partisan legal manipulations was somewhat muted by their previous support for Tom DeLay's unprecedented carving up of Texas congressional districts in a victorious attempt to disenfranchise Democrats and maintain Republican control of Congress.

'SXSW Presents' Continues

The new season of 12 90-minute shows of SXSW Presents continues on KLRU. The fourth episode, featuring David Zellner's Frontier, airs this Friday, Oct. 7, at 10pm. Episodes will continue to run every Friday through Dec. 2 on KLRU. The show is co-sponsored by KLRU, The Austin Chronicle, and South by Southwest, and SXSW Film programmer (and occasional Chronicle contributor) Matt Dentler is host.

The remaining shows:

Oct. 14: Sarah Price's Caesar's Park

Oct. 21: High School Shorts Program

Oct. 28: Andrew Garrison's The Wilgus Stories

Nov. 4: Dan Brown's American Detective

Nov. 11: Emily Morse's See How They Run

Nov. 18: East Austin Stories Program

Nov. 25: Susan Kirr and Rusty Martin's "Bike Like U Mean It"

Dec. 2: Jenn Garrison's PrizeWhores

These 90-minute programs showcase local, national, and international productions, both features and shorts. There will be interviews and more with some of the artists responsible for making the films being shown. end story

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Harriet Miers, George W. Bush, Supreme Court nomination, Miers nomination, Bush administration, Roe v. Wade, judicial litmus test, Republican partisanship, New York Times, Maureen Dowd, Dick Cheney, John Roberts, Look Who's Talking, illegal immigration, Iraq, The Wall Street Journal, Proposition 13, Rush Limbaugh, U.S. Constitution, KLBJ-AM

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